PMQs: Boris Johnson calls on Keir Starmer to 'retract' leaflet
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In a speech about his post-Covid recovery plan, the Prime Minister is to set out his hopes of restoring a “sense of pride” in communities that have felt neglected for decades. But he will also insist his plans will tackle the soaring house prices and lengthening commuter journeys that blight supposedly better-off areas. “We will have made progress in Levelling Up when we have begun to raise living standards spread opportunity, improved our public services and restored people’s sense of pride in their community,” he is expected to tell his audience on a visit to the West Midlands.
His speech is expected to be seen as an attempt to reassure Tory MPs in the south of England that his vision is not abandoning the party’s traditional heartlands in the hope of holding onto the “Red Wall” former Labour seats captured in the North at the 2019 general election.
Mr Johnson will argue that spreading prosperity and opportunity more evenly across the entire UK will prevent economic “overheating” caused by population surges into a few well-heeled enclaves.
Previous Labour and Tory governments have focused investment too much in “areas where house prices are already sky-high and where transport is already congested”, the Prime Minister is expected to say.
He will add: “By turbocharging those areas – especially in London and the southeast – you drive prices even higher and you force more and more people to move to the same expensive areas and the result is that their commutes are longer, their trains are more crowded, they have less time with their kids.
“They worry at the same time that the younger generation won’t be able to get a home and that their leafy suburb or village will be engulfed by new housing development but without the infrastructure to go with it.”
He will also contrast his vision of “levelling up” with the “levelling down” approach of the Left, which seeks to create equality by confiscating wealth.
Speaking about the government’s approach, the Prime Minister will say: “It is vital to understand the difference between this project and levelling down.
“We don’t want to decapitate the tall poppies. We don’t think you can make the poor parts of the country richer by making the rich parts poorer.”
Mr Johnson will add: “Levelling up is not a jam-spreading operation. It’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s not zero sum, it’s win win.”
He will also say that the UK’s successful vaccine rollout will help fuel a strong economic recovery in the year ahead.
“Levelling up can only be achieved with a strong and dynamic wealth creating economy.
“There must be a catalytic role for government, and government is there to provide a strategic lead, but that requires consistency – not chopping and changing,” Mr Johnson will say.
His speech comes ahead of a “Levelling Up” Government “White Paper” policy document due in the Autumn setting out new measures to boost regional growth.
And his intervention following Tory tensions about complaints the party is neglecting its core vote.
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Last month, the Tories were defeated by the Lib Dems in the Chesham and Amersham by-election following a campaign dominated by the HS2 rail project and the Government’s shake up of planning laws.
Some Tory MPs fear the Prime Minister’s drive to slash planning regulations to speed up the building of homes and major transport projects is alienating southern voters.
The “Levelling Up” policy has been at the heart of Mr Johnson’s Brexit vision for the UK ever since he took office in 2019.
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And the Prime Minister has refused to allow the spiralling costs of the response to the Covid pandemic, now exceeding £400billion, to diminish his enthusiasm for the approach.
He insists the “Levelling Up” plans will provide vital economic investment to help the economy bounce back from the downturn caused by the Covid lockdowns.
The Treasury has established a £4.8 billion fund to support town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets.
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